TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — A Tucson woman is making history after being appointed as the first Black Chief Deputy of the Pima County Attorney's Office.
Tamara Mulembo says ever since she was a little girl, she knew she wanted to pursue law, but getting to where she is today didn’t come without its challenges.
“I was a kid who went to school on scholarship and worked her way through school working multiple jobs you know,” she told KGUN9.
Mulembo went to the University of Arizona and received a law degree from the James E. Rogers College of Law.
“I worked as a law clerk for two years in this building while I was still a student,” added Mulembo.
She eventually worked as a public defender at the local level for a few years. Then, Mulembo worked at the federal level for a little over a decade, before getting the call of a lifetime.
“It took me by surprise. You know this wasn’t something I had actually applied for. This was one of those situations I was in a job interview I didn’t know I was in,” she told KGUN9 in disbelief.
Though she gladly accepted, becoming the first African American appointed to Chief Deputy in the Pima County Attorney’s Office 109-year history.
“It goes without saying that representation matters. I have to make sure that there is always a space for others coming behind me and I need to be intentional about that. Because I think one of the traps we fall into is we think once we see diverse folks at the table we think our job is done and it’s not. That’s an excellent first step, but it’s not the end of the journey,” she told KGUN9.
As Chief Deputy, Mulembo makes sure everything in the office runs smoothly.
“We’ve got 377 employees here. We have a criminal division. We have a civil unit. We have a juvenile unit. We have multiple departments underneath these units,” she added.
Even though she is making history and paving the way for change, she says there’s a consistent obstacle she hopes to eventually tackle: the perception of minorities sitting at the table.
“I mean, I’ve walked into a courtroom as counsel of record and been confused for the defendant. That's happened more than a few times. What ends up happening for broadly people of color in the legal profession is we are simply required to perform above and beyond to show that we have earned and deserve our places at the table,” said Mulembo.
She plans to help this perception through changes in legislation and policies. Here’s her message to those pursuing their dreams.
“My grandmother was somebody who poured into me very early in life that I could do anything that I wanted. My suggestion to folks is to work hard, be diligent in the small things, and don’t hold onto your plans too tightly because God might have a different plan for you,” she told KGUN9.